It all started in Berlin at one of the most authentic Moghul-style mosques. As European representative of the worldwide Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, I often visit this Islamic Center and occasionally deliver the Friday sermon. After one of my sermons in the summer of 2005 on peace and tolerance in Islam, Mr. Fritz Piepenburg and Mr. Frank Friederich of the local Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) contacted me and asked me to make a presentation on those subjects to their interfaith group that evening.
In my presentation, I attempted to show that Islam, in its essence and philosophy, has nothing to do with violence or terrorism. This image of about one fifth of the world’s population is based only on political and social struggles in today’s world. I have—in my opinion—convincingly proven from the holy Qur’an that the religion of Islam is open towards other faiths such as Christianity and Judaism. The wars and terrorism practiced by radical Muslims have no base whatsoever in the holy Book of Islam. Also, contrary to the general opinion, jihad has nothing to do with violence but more with the concept of compassion for fellow human beings. Islam was not founded fourteen centuries ago by a prophet named Muhammad (peace be upon him); instead, it was a continuation and perfection of existing religions coming from the one and same God of all mankind.
Happy that the presentation seemed to fit seamlessly in an interfaith group such as IIFWP, I was unexpectedly offered a certificate as an Ambassador for Peace. It would appear later that I was the first person from Holland granted this title. However, being prejudiced against the so-called Moon sect, I accepted this honor with some reluctance.
Although the IIFWP had regularly sent our Ahmadiyya Center in the rather posh Wilmersdorf area in Berlin invitations for conferences, etc., we never had responded positively. There was always a prejudice against everything connected with the Moon sect and the image of sect leaders living in an extravagant style and controlling the lives of their members or subjects.
My experience with Mr. Piepenburg and Mr. Friederich was completely different. In a constructive and very pleasurable way, they laid out a bridge towards our Muslim community in Berlin. Their explanation about the goals and methods of their organization impressed me. Mr. Friederich suggested that I join the Dutch branch of the IIFWP in Amsterdam. For this purpose, he contacted Mr. Wim Koetsier, who is the Secretary General here, and I soon received invitations for meetings in Holland.
Probably in his desire to know me better, Mr. Friederich roamed the Internet for my name and found an article reporting that the honorable title of Knighthood of the Order of House of Orange was extended to me by the Queen’s Major of Rotterdam a year or so earlier. Besides my more than forty-six years of government service in Surinam and Holland, special mention was made of my life-long volunteer activities for the community as a whole.
The more I learned about IIFWP, the more I noticed its difference from other sectarian movements. Born in Korea, Dr. Sun Myung Moon not only founded a Christian association but also laid the foundation for dialogue with other religious societies in the world. Out of the IIFWP has evolved the Universal Peace Federation. With this, Father Moon—as he is often referred to by his adherents—has reached out his hand to all nations in the world so that all may experience peace. It is essential to mention that the association does not imposes its own principles on others; all who are involved in the peace process, mostly as appointed Ambassadors for Peace, participate out of their own conviction.
I experienced the influence of the worldwide peace family at an IIFWP conference in Jerusalem in September 2005 and a conference in Geneva not long afterwards. In the stately but colossal conference hall, thousands of Ambassadors for Peace from all over Europe listened as the venerable apostle of peace, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, spoke for more than four hours in a resolute and convincing way about the importance of peace. He also explained that the family is cornerstone for peaceful co-existence in the world. I became more and more impressed by the charisma and persuasive power of this warrior for peace.
My ultimate impression came during the World Summit on Peace held in Seoul, Korea, June 10-14, 2006. Hundreds of Ambassadors for Peace along with political and religious leaders from close to 200 nations assembled to discuss the theme of "Peacebuilding and Human Development." As a Muslim, I was elated to meet religious as well as political Muslim leaders from around the world who were contributing to this great cause. I was particularly happy to meet, among others, the Vice President of the Afghan Republic, His Excellency Karim Khalili.
The pinnacle of this summit for world peace was the opening of the Peace Palace erected high up in the mountains east of Seoul. Embarking on one of the hundreds of buses inching its way up the mountainside, I saw thousands upon thousands of Korean citizens in white clothes walking up the spiraling pathway. Sitting in the air-conditioned coach and watching the white lines of believers moving up the mountain, I immediately thought of biblical scenes such as the New Testament’s Sermon on the Mount.
Splendid processions and cultural performances enraptured the audience during the five-hour dedication ceremony. Although I felt lost in the massiveness of the celebrations, I took pride in presenting one of the crowns of peace to Mother and Father Moon. Lined up with representatives of nearly 200 countries, my contribution seemed small. The Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands, houses the International Court of Justice, which deals with conflicts among nations, but the Peace Palace in Korea is an earthly abode of peace symbolizing ultimate peace among the nations.
My desire to contribute towards world peace arises from my conviction based on the Qur’an that Islam is the most misunderstood religion in the world today. I give presentations on Islam and peace at interfaith conferences using quotes such: "O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female and made you tribes and families that you may know each other." (49:13) It is thus the difference in race, color and appearance through which we may recognize and know (and respect) one another.
The majority of conflicts and wars in history have taken place among people of the same race: for example, the world wars in Europe, the conflicts between Japan and China, and the drama in South Asia between Hindus and Muslims. Yet other examples of "Cain killing Abel" are the mass genocides in Africa. Can we imagine what would have been the fate of mankind if God Almighty had made all human beings the same race, color or creed? I am convinced that mankind would long ago have become extinct.
Another Quranic invocation which I also make my theme is:
"Surely, those who believe (Muslims) and those who are Jews and the Christians and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the last day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord and there is no fear for them nor shall they grieve." (2:62)
Where else can one find recognition of all religions named by their proper names (Muslims, Jews, Christians and Sabians) or not (whoever believes in God) than in the holy Book of Islam? This verse has inspired me to approach other religions and enter interfaith forums to build mutual understanding about peace for mankind.
In addition to the Holy Qur’an, the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) has given examples of pluralism and peaceful coexistence of mankind. Regarding a question from his companions about the rights of one’s neighbors, he gave the following answer:
Help him when he asks for help. Lend him something when he asks for it. Console him when he is sad. Congratulate him when something good happens to him. When a disaster overcomes him, sympathize with him.
Do not overshadow his house by building yours higher without his permission. Be always kind to him.
At a time when Jews, Christians, Muslims and others were living together in the city of Medina, this message from the Messenger of Islam must have been a meaningful call for mankind’s edification. To answer this call for coexistence, which is now propagated by the Universal Peace Federation, I have decided to dedicate the rest of my life.